Words: Samantha Howard
Wandering into the dust and rocky grounds of Babylon very closely resembled trekking across the wide plains of Mad Max’s post apocalyptic Australia. Rusty cars laid slightly buried in the earth whilst intergalactic space ships were situated around you.
The festival truly managed to take people away from a space of actual reality and teleport them into a newly found wonderland where people could spend an entire weekend playing, learning and just being. Carapooee West in the Northern Grampians Shire was a fitting location to hold the festival as attendees let their hair down for a weekend of no judgement; just good tunes and good times.
Babylon is only in its second year, yet the weekend was pulled off as though it’s been around as long as the other major electronic music festivals on the Victorian summer circuit.
On Friday, punters were able to enter the festival smoothly and there was plenty of access to enough camping ground with a walk to the stages that wasn’t too inconvenient. The event began with the Opening Ceremony and welcoming to the land by the traditional First Nations owners of the Dja Dja Wurrung people, before Jacob Malmo and Sumiruna took to the Hanging Gardens and Mandala stage.
The Mandala stage would become a treat over the weekend for fans of progressive psytrance and more ambient beats. Here DJs were provided with an opportunity to perform in a giant spaceship that looked spectacular during the day, and even better at night.
A big kudos to the sound and light team, who treated attendees with Funktion One soundsystems at both the Mandala stage and the main stage, Bloc.
Each evening of the Mandala stage featured lights and lasers that scattered across the top of the heads of all those who were dancing to their hearts content on the dance floor, and reflecting on the multi-coloured shade clothes put in place above.
There was no time to waste at the Hanging Gardens stage, as Spanish-born German Brigante, a near regular to the decks in Melbourne, followed Malmo.
Dennis Cruz was an early highlight for the weekend, and lived up to his award-winning prestige as he shifted the gears before Aussie veteran Tahl started to spin.
Opiuo shined his groovy soul at the Mandala stage and brought an exciting hour of power to both those who have never heard him before and those who have had the pleasure of seeing him on multiple occasions year after year.
Agents of Time played an impressive live set that continued to be spoken about long after the set was finished over at the main stage, Bloc.
The Bloc stage also featured Funktion One speakers that had desirable bass but it often felt that the sound clarity was at its best quality only when you were front and middle.
Festival highlight Laurent Garnier spoilt the crowd after Agents of Time with his signature driving house and techno to take punters through the sunset. The music ended at 5am each morning, and while disappointing to those still kicking, this initiative provided an effective way of ensuring festival goers could get plenty of rest between each of the days.
Punters were able to wake up fresh on the Saturday morning and for those keen to do more than just party, there were plenty of options to try something new at the Lifestyle Village. Guided meditation, Thai massage and an entertaining Hard NRG Power Flow Yoga were just some of the options available. From the rainforests of Brazil, Mike Haffner did not disappoint at the Halfway House early on in the day, playing vibrant and melodic sounds to truly awaken the rhythmic soul.
Luke Vecchio unsurprisingly played an infectiously enjoyable set at the Hanging Gardens early in the morning. I truly believe that there is no one DJ who gets more amongst his own set. His energy creates an irreplacable vibe unlike anyone else, which is completely contagious to everyone within his audience. It is impossible to not enjoy each and every second of his set, as he takes his listeners on a journey from beginning to end, each and every time he plays.
Also at the Hanging Gardens, Giorgia Angiuli debuted with her very first Australian show. She was a sight to see as she performed her live set, creating sounds withonly the most random of items. She used a toy monkey to emit unheard of noises, which created an excitable stir in the crowd who watched on amused and thoroughly entertained.
Victor Ruiz was an absolute highlight for many, who closed out Saturday evening at the Bloc stage with a bang. Following his set, I was informed he had literally brought people to tears. One punter even quoted to me, “when I die, I want to live like this in heaven.”
Sunday was an absolute treat at the main stage. Six hours was not simply not long enough, as Late Nite Tuff Guy played his signature floor-raising tunes which your fellow festival partner, mother and even grandmother would greatly appreciate.
Derrick Carter followed, bringing us such quality disco tunes that no one on the dance floor could keep from smiling. Eric Powell played after this, dropping classics from across the globe, with Dubtribe Sound System’s Equitoreal being a personal favourite.
Carl Cox was the final act of the festival and his energy was completely contagious. His motivation towards supporting the Australian music industry is inspiring and the support was equally returned from the crowd.
Carl Cox being handed a more-than-life-sized cardboard cut out of his face kept him smiling, and it was delight to hear when he closed the festival and informed the crowd that Babylon is his ultimate favourite festival to perform at. To finish off the weekend, he dropped crowd-pleasure Blue Monday by New Order and left punters longing for more and mentally keeping their schedules clear for next year.
The organisation of Babylon in only its second year is commendable. Disappointments over the weekend were mainly the disorganisation of set times, that for a while were two hours behind.
Many locals were moved around and rearranged at times which impacted their own smaller communities of followers who were keen to see them just as much as the headliners. Many local names didn’t feature in the main schedule so it was nearly impossible to see who was playing at all times, besides the bigger acts.
It was also quite difficult to locate campsites, as there were minimal helpers huts and no grid system or signage in place.
These are all minor details of the major positives that occurred over the entirety of the weekend, and we are looking forward to see what the baby festival Babylon has in store for next year.